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August 04, 2009

A Taste of the Valley

Summer is a busy time for me and Food Editor Suzanne Podhaizer. With all the fairs and food festivals afoot, we love to take the opportunity to get the word out to folks about 7 Nights and the Bite Club. Last night, we were lucky enough to have a table at Sugarbush for A Taste of the Valley, one of the centerpieces of the Mad River Valley-based Vermont Festival of the Arts

The vendors sprawled through a large courtyard, the Timbers Restaurant and the Gate House Base Lodge like a Disneyworld of foodie fun. After situating our 7 Nights magazines at a table on the top floor of the Base Lodge, I visited our neighbors at Vermont Yak Company. Their lemon zest-y meatballs held me over while I waited in line for a potato — stuffed to my specifications — by Cooking from the Heart, the catering company run by Charlie Menard as part of his position at Round Barn Farm. I went for a small spud topped with herb butter, corn, duck and a spritz of creme fraiche. Other choices included yak chili and chanterelles.

I was able to get my fungus fix from the Green Cup, where chanterelle ravioli blended beautifully with a "milk-fed" chicken meatball. The lovely ladies at Vermont Soy served up sushi stuffed with carrots, cukes and their tasty maple ginger tofu. They also gave away bottles of chocolate and vanilla soy milk.

Hostel Tevere, a new spot to sleep and eat just down the road from Sugarbush served up a deceptively simple parmesan-kissed penne ragu which had me coming back for seconds.

Outside, Gaylord Farm had prepared a pig roast with fatty, delicious flesh bolstered by a trio of sauces: tomato, orange honey marmalade and jalapeno jam, all made on the farm, mostly from their own produce. The pork binge continued with ribs and a pile of pulled from Localfolk Smokehouse, which boasted the longest line at the event. The ribs were especially fine, topped in a vinegary, herbal sauce which played well with the smoky meat. 

My favorite bite of the night was on offer at the Pitcher Inn's table. The fava bean ravioli was a beautiful shade of green inside and out – like green tea mochi. Drenched in bacon creme fraiche, the plate conjured a dinner in the wine cellar at the Relais & Chateaux inn.

For dessert, I headed to the Big Picture Theater's spot where I sampled my first-ever donut bread pudding. I finished the night with a pair of cookies from Liz Lovely, a purveyor of vegan sweets that managed to convince even this avowed carnivore with some oatmeal, walnut and dark chocolate Cowboy Cookies and spicy crystallized ginger and molasses Ginger Snapdragons.

It was great to learn more about food in the valley and meet purveyors about whom we'd written but not met. I already can't wait to see what next year brings. Just 364 days...

Donut bread pudding is amazing. Basically, anything that the Very Small Donut Company makes is amazing. Because it's donuts. That are very small.

Thanks for the kudos, Alice! And, A Taste of the Valley has an encore this year! A Feast for the Arts is an evening of fine food, musical entertainment and a live/silent art auction on Saturday, August 21. Timbers' chef Gerry Nooney provides the victuals, Piero Bonamico of Cafe Noir the musical entertainment, and the art is provided by local artists such as Bill Brauer, Candy Barr, Gary Eckhart...

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